Blog > Winter Mountaineering

Cuillin Ridge crest in full winter garb

03/02/14

The weather finally settled down a wee bit in the middle of last week, enough for Ally and I to get out and see what all this wild weather has produced. Very impressive indeed!

plasteredAlly abseiling down from Bealach Thormaid

We opted for a broad open gully line that finishes near the sumit of Sgurr na Banachdaich. The line traverses out almost horizontally for 100m from just below the Bealach Thormaid on the Coruisk side. A short, 30m, steeper section leads up into a broad finishing bowl and the summit above. It was short and sweet giving 4 pitches and grade II for the steep section in the conditions we found.

False Gully IIHigh above Coruisk after the steep section.

I scrambled up the same line a couple of years ago in snow-free conditions. In summer it is often taken by mistake by climbers heading north along the Ridge so we’ve called it False Gully. Hopefully, in time, this will raise awareness of its presence as a false trail for future parties.

Sun rays over Rum

Wild & wonderful on Banachdaich, 27 January.

27/01/14

Exposure beneath central top

 

Traversing benath the Central top of Banachdaich.

A wild and stormy start to the day was supposed to clear by 10am but nobody told the Cuillin weather gods. However, despite the appalling weather, snow conditions underfoot were very good. The fresh snow still had a lot of damp in it and should harden readily if we can get a freeze before the next thaw. I’d even go so far as to suggest a Winter Traverse might be possible.

Coated crestNearing 3rd top of Banachdaich

Its the first time that I’ve ever had my group shelter out “in anger”; providing shelter to add extra layers and eat a good quantity before pushing on to the top. We would only have managed a quick bite in that weather otherwise. It was a no brainer to whip it out again when we reached the top and needed to put the crampons and harnesses on. Although we carry them every day its only in extremis that this piece of kit really proves its worth.

From the summit we traversed the ridge southward to Bealach na Banachdaich. Fresh snow had only drifted up to about a foot or so deep and I knew it was lying mainly straight onto rock (this end of the crest was virtually snow-free by Tuesday last week) so had very few worries about it breaking away.Snowy descent

With little sign of improvement we decided against ascending to look at the Pinn and fought our way down into the stinging hailstones. Again we were lucky with underfoot conditions, ditched crampons early and slid our way down deep banks of fluffy white-stuff:-)

Happy chappies

3rd Pinnacle of Gillean, 25 January

26/01/14

Conditions on Pinnacle Ridge yesterday were absolutely excellent but very serious at the same time. We put crampons on at the foot of 1st/2nd Gully and had great neve from then onwards.

IMG_4945 (800x600)Topping out of 1st / 2nd Gully

Sadly squeezing any routes in between the storms this month is a frantic business. Our attempt on Pinnacle Ridge was cut short but climbing the 3rd Pinnacle on its own felt like a a very full-on adventure.

A broad streak of thick snow ran straight to the top of the 3rd Pinnacle and we reached it in 2 50m pitches.

P1130080 (600x800)2 long pitches took us up the continuos line of snow from left to the very top.

 

The abseil from the top nearly reached the col below but not quite so a hanging belay had to be excavated.

P1130086 (600x800)Hanging belay on 3rd Pinnacle

The traverse out onto Knight’s Peak is always exposed and knarly with a swing into the void for both leaders and seconds a distinct possiblity.

Spacewalking (800x600)Spacewalking out onto the 4th Pinnacle

With time against us and softer snow on the changed aspect we decided to run away with an abseil down to the east. A particularly black cloud engulfed us soon after, lashed us with hail that created a beautiful waterfall effect as they slooshed down the steep faces above.

Waterfalls of hailstones2 (600x800)Waterfalls of hailstones

As it was we finished in the dark so twas a sound decision. Hopefully back for the full ascent tomorrow if these winds calm down!

 

 

Winter Climbing Meet 2014 photos and links.

26/01/14

16 of us met in the Glen Brittle Memorial Hut last weekend for the annual Skye winter meet. The weather gods were gathering payback from us for such stonking conditions in 2013 but enthusiasm got everyone out still to build up an appetite for food and beers.P1020625 (600x800)Romain gives instructions on how to fondue and raclette- Over 5kg of cheese was consumed!

Friday was excellent and all 7  of the early arrivers headed to the snowy north end. Dave and John climbed North-west Face Route (II) on Gillean, Romain and Steve the NW Ridge of Bruach na Frithe

P1120970 (600x800)

while Ian, Dave and I found some ice on Running on Numpty (II) on the flank of Sgurr a’ Bhasteir.

P1120935 (800x600)

Dave and Ian after climbing Running on Numpty

Dave went back to Bruach na Frithe with Nicola the next day and won again, the only team to brave the showers and they won with a 360 panorama from the top. Link to dave Bowdlers shots- https://plus.google.com/photos/103884480644177632031/albums/5970627149310564129

Other activities included walks out to Macleod’s Maidens &  Glamaig. Some great dry-tooling was found just along from the beach and further out towards Ruabh Dunain and Lucy Janni and I climbed onto the Cioch for a sword fight.P1020641 (800x600)Lucy leading Slab Corner up to the Cioch

Romain’s videos- http://youtu.be/WbhbMYzGu7I

Romain’s photos- https://skydrive.live.com/?cid=7CD9146C44E3A670&id=7CD9146C44E3A670%212328&v=3&authkey=%21AAKu0MCarsqnP9U

Thanks to everyone for showing their support, fine effort all around.

Great conditions for Eag Dubh and the Ridge crest

14/01/14

Temperatures dropped overnight and left us a good thicknes of snow from about 650m today. I did worry about avalanches but snow pits showed a very old layer with 2 or 3 fresher layers resonably well bonded above.

Lined Eag Dubh AnDorus

The clouds clung thinly to the Ridge almsot all day but parted frequently enough to let us appreciate the grandeur of our surroundings.

do you want to see my puppies

Hard graft  Romp to the top Rooftop finale

A Torridonian Treat; 4th January 2014

07/01/14

Jim, Merrissa and I ended the week on a high with an ascent of Liathach over on the mainland. On Friday night we braved wild weather just to drive the 70 miles and then a 10 minute walk to the Ling Hut in the dark and driving rain. Next morning little seemed to have changed by 8am but the forecast came right just before 9.

Archive photo of the SMC Ling hut with Liathach behind; our route gained the crest at the right edge and traversed to the obvious high point called Spidean a’ Choire Leith (1055m)

The ascent is quite possibly the fiercest anywhere in the UK, rising from 30m above sea-level to 833m in little over a kilometre.We put crampons on at about 700m and it was obvious our descent was going to be concentrated.

our route behind us

Along the crest the snow was immaculate with just a small amount of give in a uniform covering.

Sun over Maol Carn Dearg

Roped together we wandered for the next hour in an almost dream-like manner with amazing light on the views all around.

 

Western Ridge of LiathachFrom the summit the ridge still stretched away into the distance but a lack of time and light meant we reluctantly had to turn heel and begin our descent.Luckily a direct slope back into Coire Liath Mhor gave a good fast start to this stage. A lip of rock below made us do a short abseil before traversing back towards our original path.

I realised it had been over 10 years since my last pilgramage to Torridon; this left me with mixed feelings of embarressment but mainly joy at rediscovering the hills I used to know so well. Liathach is 2nd only to Ben Nevis for mainland mountains I have climbed on. It won’t be long before I’m back again.

Good to be back

Hogmanay fun; 31st December

03/01/14

Jim & I were on the verge of aborting today because of the rain and winds. Returning to base the red Cuillin peaks all around were suddenly clear and highly attractive with a warm cuppa in hand!

2 minutes back down the road we set off past the waterfall with the long snowfields on the North Face of Garbh-bheinn. These turned out to be very fine with crampons needed pretty much from the first patches of snow at 500m. 1000ft and an hour later we’d explored some exciting buttress terrain as well as the easy gully features to reach the summit.

Descending with N face below JimLooking down on the north face of Garbh-bheinn as we descended

Windows soon appeared through the mist as we descended. Golden light reflected off the sea at Camasunary. Gradually views into the main Cuillin appeared with mists being turned pink by the setting sun behind.

Looking good on the Ridge, 29th December

29/12/13

Beautiful calm day today for some Cuillin exploration.

Early clouds dispersed to leave us magnificent views up to the Coire Lagan peaks.P1120706 (800x600)

Sgurr Mhiccoinnich

The kids all enjoyed the boulders while waiting for the rest of us to catch up.

I love the light at this time of year with the subtle hues of dawn pretty much blending in with the sunset.

P1120713 (800x600)Rum & Eigg silouetted in the mid-winter sun

Climbers will be interested in the conditions and potential fun just now; below is my report for UKClimbing. I’ve put a zoomed picture of the top of Sgurr Dearg and the In Pinn immediately below.

“The heavy snows have been stripped out right up to 700m but, above this, serious quantities are still plastering all rocks. With temperatures up to 7 degrees or so yesterday it is very likely to have thawed to the tops and is now solidifying nicely.
Worth an attempt on a Traverse if we can get a settled period of weather but I can’t spot that window myself.
Not much ice visible and all but the steepest mixed lines likely to be swamped. Not sure it is cold enough for the plastered snow to be much use.”

P1120723 (800x600)West flank of Dearg summit plastered in deep snow; I would expect lots of rock showing through after a thaw normally.

Gallery-

Bruach na Frithe Blizzards, 19th December

19/12/13

Ben has been dealt more than his fair share of weather for his course but enthusiasm and attitude has given us a couple of excellent days.

Braes to Raasay

Yesterday we avoided the wind down on the beach at the Braes with a refresher session on gear placements and retrieving abseil ropes. We finished with a great bit of fun dry-tooling up a greasy steep corner.Dry tooling braes With nearly zero friction for the feet it was a fight to the top but great lesson (for both of us!) in trusting thin placements.

This morning winds dropped to gale force instead of storm force so we headed past the Fairy Pools toward the Spur of Sgurr an Fheadian. It looked very dry and unlikely we would need crampons so we gambled instead on heading higher, hoping that the wind gods would be kind.

A tail-wind up the Tairnilear stone shoot was most welcome.

Reaching TairnilearA good coating of ice covered almost every rock for the final 100m of ascent and crampons were a definite good move.

The view

 

Peace from the wind over the crest of the Ridge was made even better by the subtle colours out towards Blaven and beyond.

Snow started falling as we set off and everything turned white very soon after but the wind was steady more than gusting and we made good progress, reaching the top in about 2 hours.Maelstrom

Midst of the heavy snow shower

The descent down Fionn Choire was another matter as we were battered from every direction, slapped by walls of spindrift and pelted by hail that felt more like lead shot; strangely no pics;-)

Our routeOur route went from the V-notch leftward to Bruach na Frithe.

Enjoy the gallery-